A little over a decade ago a small technology start-up was out of money, and about to give up. But a professional service group showed the entrepreneurs a way to convert intellectual property into a revenue stream; and the start-up was reborn. An eighteen month revenue stream that defied even the most optimistic pro forma ensued.

The company praised their advisors. Glowing emails spoke in reverent terms of the counsel and strategy that saved the business from the fate known by many when the tech bubble burst early in the 2000‘s. The relationship between client and service provider could not have been better.

Or so it seemed.

Two years after being rescued, and just ninety days after authoring an unsolicited “we-love-you” email, the company fired the professional service group to embark on a new relationship with a sexy, aggressive suitor.

Assume All Is Well At Your Own Risk

Relationship is both critical, and difficult. Enterprises invests millions in customer relationship marketing strategy and management technology. Yet loyalty is illusive.

One big reason? We misunderstand the experience-to-relationship equation. The advisors noted above thought quality counsel and the experiences of yesterday were enough.

But the professional relationship that endures is characterized by on-going attention and nurture. And in a competitive marketplace the equation that delivers differentiating experiences has three parts:

  • Listening. This is about getting smart. Hearing expectations. Learning what matters most. Even identifying what might put the relationship at risk.
  • Communicating. Dialogue — honest give-and-take — is essential to relationships that grow and last. Here is where plans are born, expectations articulated and shared aspirations identified.
  • Collaborating. This is about the mutual pursuit of objectives and goals.

Consistently build around these three ideas, and the result is the creation of shared experiences. Nothing binds a relationship more.

Give only lip-service to any, and even a strong relationship can be weakened. Leave one or more out — or employ a sporadic strategy (say, a touch-base-quarterly-communication plan) — and any relationship is at risk.

Build around shared experiences, and relationships have a shot at withstanding all that will threaten — from market metrics to blatant rate plays, from aggressive competition to high-consequence change.

Certainly, quality and expertise are essential. In fact, in the markets in which most of us live and work, these are presumed. To an increasing degree, the experience you deliver — daily — is both the most effective means of differentiation, and the DNA of client relationships that last.